Business leaders regularly review their dashboards to maintain awareness of operational performance and to be notified when any performance issues arise. In many cases, dashboards are built with automated features that highlight a metric in green if it falls in the appropriate range, in yellow if performance is borderline and needs to be watched, and in red if performance problems definitely exist. In other cases the dashboard includes a control chart for a metric that allows managers to easily see when a special cause comes into play such as an increasing or decreasing trend or outliers.
When leaders see data indicating that a problem exists with a process, they should not immediately seek to launch a DMAIC project to improve the process. The first question they need to ask is: What exactly is happening and why is it happening? If the cause of a problem is immediately obvious and the solution equally obvious, it is the leader's responsibility to take action to resolve the issue. For instance, if process cycle time suddenly increases beyond acceptable limits, and quick investigation reveals that equipment problems are the cause, management should repair or replace the equipment. Six Sigma project management is not necessary to resolve the problem.
If, however, the performance changes are more complex and the team cannot determine why problems are occurring, then proposing a DMAIC project is a wise choice. Typically the need for projects is greater than the resources available for completing them all simultaneously. Companies have a limited number of Green Belts and Black Belts, and the leaders who serve as Sponsors and Process Owners cannot implement too many projects at once. In addition, it is unwise to attempt multiple projects at a time when they affect the same process, especially if they could interfere with each other.
So a method is needed for prioritizing potential Six Sigma projects. Using objective measures is a better technique than depending on subjective information such as which business leader is clamoring loudest about the need for a project, or chartering projects based on which Belts or managers are looking for a project to work on.
Establishing a set of Six Sigma project selection criteria is necessary, and the dashboard is a great place to start for this. The dashboard shows which metrics are furthest off course, and which have been problematic for the longest period. Leaders should also make judgments about which of the dashboard metrics are most critical in terms of the number of stakeholder groups affected or some other measure of impact. By identifying the metrics and processes with the most extreme performance issues, the leadership team can make effective decisions about Six Sigma project management and selection.